This week, I have watched in dismay the images coming out of the Gulf Coast as people whose lives have been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina desperately try to pull through. Throughout this week, I have often felt helpless as I’ve witnessed the reports on survivors whose lives have been so ruthlessly torn apart.

This hurricane was no respecter of persons. It swept through the region with ultimate brutality and wreaked havoc with all within its path.

Thankfully, the Christian community is responding to this American tragedy. Our Liberty Godparent Home for Unwed Mothers here in Lynchburg has been asked to provide temporary foster homes for many homeless Gulf Coast babies. We have agreed to do so. As pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, or TRBC, we are also in the process of raising funds to assist the hordes of hurting people in the ravaged areas. Liberty University has made a similar commitment. Further, LU is offering free tuition to any college students in disrupted Gulf Coast schools while those colleges recover.

TRBC and LU are members of the Southern Baptist Convention, or SBC. I am happy to report that more than 1,000 trained relief volunteers from the SBC are either in place or on their way to perform missions of mercy to those who have been traumatized by Katrina and now remain in her chaotic aftermath.

Robert E. Reccord, president of the SBC’s North American Mission Board, calls those heading to the Gulf “a dedicated army of compassion.” It is evident that these individuals will be put to the test in the days to come as they witness the horrors of the situation and possibly contend with outbreaks of violence that are arising in the region.

The SBC volunteers are from 25 states, including Lynchburg, Va., ready and willing to help their fellow man and share the Gospel. Dr. Reccord says they will be cooking meals, removing fallen trees, providing hot showers, clearing mud from homes and “giving comfort flowing from their faith.”

The North American Mission Board coordinates the work of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the third largest disaster recovery organization in America. They partner with the American Red Cross, and will be serving up to 300,000 meals per day by this weekend.

The North American Mission Board is familiar with dealing with these types of tragedies; last fall, their corps of volunteers prepared 2.6 million hot meals in the wake of the Florida hurricanes. More than 8,000 individuals traveled to Florida to, as Dr. Reccord says, “offer others a cup of water in the name of Jesus Christ.”

He says that feeding a “city in exile” over the course of the following weeks, possibly months, will require unparalleled effort and resources.

And that’s where I hope you will come in.

I am asking my readers to prayerfully consider joining TRBC, LU and hundreds of other SBC churches, making an immediate special gift to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief effort. Not everyone can physically go to Louisiana or Mississippi to lend a helping hand, but we can all make a contribution to this essential effort.

You may donate online, by phone (1-888-571-5895) or by mail (NAMB-Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543). The website not only receives donations, but also provides reports on the progress of recovery efforts in the Gulf.

I urge all readers to send a special gift to support our volunteer-driven, faith-based response to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. In addition, may we fervently remember the people of the Gulf and these special volunteers in our prayers as we continue to witness from our homes this horrifying episode in our nation’s history.

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